(This article was first published on July 26, 2010 for the Study Abroad section at Global Post. View the original article here.)
PAMUKKALE, Turkey — At the edge the Pamukkale village, visitors encounter a mesa covered in a white rock that I still can’t convince my parents is not ice.
For 400,000 years, the edges of these naturally made white “pools” of rock appear to spill over like beer foam on the brim of a glass, one after another cascading down the steep hills overlooking the houses below.
These white rock formations, known as travertines, are unique in the entire world. Steamy hot water spews forth from a spring and other fissures at the top and flow downhill. Emerging from the earth at temperatures between 95 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit, the waters cool on their way down leaving hardened white calcium deposits in their wake. The Turks gave the formation the name Pamukkale, or cotton castle.
We made our off-season hike up the travertines on one of Turkey’s cooler days. We began our shoeless ascent up the ivory cliffs feeling a chill in our bones. Turkey banned shoes to protect further degradation of the deposits. However, that chill didn’t last as we crossed two warm sapphire pools. Staring into these placid mirrors, you could see the village and mountains behind you.
It’s no surprise why the Greeks and Romans believed that Pamukkale imparted supernatural healing forces. During our climb, we spent nearly half an hour letting our feet dangle in a rushing current of thermal water that felt better than any Jacuzzi.
The Pamukkale’s rock is not smooth, but layered over and over similar to the thin pieces of bread Turks pile on top of each other to make a dish called Borek. But it’s also hardly rocky or sharp, and the ridges of the deposits make climbing the cliff easier.
During peak season, the travertines are filled with tourists in bathing suits (sometimes revealing more than the eye would wish to see). During a later visit, my fellow climbers included U.S. exchange students visiting Turkey on a Rotary Club tour.
At the top of the cliff, you can see all of Mother Nature’s patient creation. The white rock stretches out for nearly a mile, and the village below seems helpless in the fact of the tide of white approaching it.
And the top of the plateau is no less disappointing. The 2,200-year-old city of Hierapolis provided a stunning finish to the 600-foot climb.
Archeologists say the city became a healing center due to the thermal waters pouring from its natural fissures. The massive cemetery in Hierapolis suggests that many terminally ill people came to the city in hopes of a miracle, according to researchers. An antique pool is located in the center of the city where steamy waters continue to pour in. It is still in use today by tourists and locals.
“When you bathe in the waters of Pamukkale, your body is healed,” said village resident Mehmet Guleç, “Our waters are special.”
Pamukkale’s waters continue to flow, with the deposits inching further downhill every year. In 1988, the site became a UNESCO World Heritage site in order to protect the travertines from excessive damage by tourism and development.
Today, people still come from all reaches of the world to see and experience the waters of Turkey’s Cotton Castle.
With any luck, the tradition will continue for another 2,200 years.
It was late evening on a bus headed towards Sanliurfa, one of the Southeast’s major cities, when our bus stopped for “petrol.” But not at a normal gas station, instead two men hailed our bus to the side of the road and guided the bus behind a roadside parking lot. Once there, a green jeep pulled up beside us, and the bus attendants and driver went outside. The men pulled gas cans from the bus, and a hose from the jeep. For the next twenty minutes the men transferred what was apparently gasoline into the cans. The women in the bus chided the staff for the reckless stop while my seatmate explained the oil was likely from Iraq or Syria, sold on the black market. Oil in Turkey is extremely expensive because of taxes from the government so apparently this company was trying to save a little money. On my second visit to Sanliurfa, my friend found a man leisurely rolling “knockoff” Marlborough cigarettes in the lobby of his two-star hotel.
My friend Emily called this region the “Wild, Wild, East” in her blog. There are similarities to America’s “wild, wild West.” The region is far more arid, less developed, and yes, the law does not always go as far.
But amidst the wild desert, now becoming greener due to recent dam projects, the region is also believed to have been the birthplace for Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Turks and many Muslims believe that Abraham was born in a cave just under the largest hill Sanliurfa, Turkey. The Hebrew Scriptures tell of Abraham being born in Ur, which many believe to have been actually located in Northern Iraq. So, it is not precisely known where Abraham was actually born since it was believed to have been at least 3,000-4,000 years ago.
In Urfa, “the cave” where Abraham was born has become a very busy pilgrimage site for Muslims. But the larger attraction is the nearby pool of “sacred carp.” The Balikli Gol (Fish Lake) is a massive placid pool that lies within the mosque complex surrounding Abraham’s “birth cave.” According to legend, Abraham was brought up to the top of the hill in Urfa before the ruling emperor. At the time, Abraham’s society believed in numerous pagan gods. It’s widely known from surviving ruins that the moon and sun, among others, were worshiped as gods during the time Abraham is believed to have lived. The emperor, threatened by Abraham’s insistence, is said to have thrown Abraham off the hill and into a fire as a death sentence. But according to lore, the flames became water and the wood chips became fish. Abraham was saved. Today, the residents have recreated the legend by filling the pool with hundreds of fish. The fish are considered holy and removing them is said to bring a curse on the thief. The fish are fed constantly by visitors, and because of that, they swim in crowded globs awaiting the sprinkles of food from visitors.
The Koran and the Old Testament say Abraham grew up with an intrinsic knowledge that there was only one God. All the “Abrahamic religions” agree that he was the first to believe and make a covenant with that God. They all tell stories of how Abraham left home bound for a new world where he could establish and live with his new faith. Some stories say Abraham traveled to Harran after fleeing from his pagan captors. Today, Harran is a small village between Sanliurfa and Syria. It’s known for unique beehive shaped houses, and again, for being another way point for the prophet Abraham. The ruins of a large mosque and old fortress rise above the desert landscape, but little else does. For me, it was interesting to visit the same places mentioned in the Bible and where Abraham may have passed through.
However, Abraham is not the only prophet who is believed to have passed through southeastern Turkey. The prophet Job’s “cave” also resides just outside
Sanliurfa’s city center. Muslims, like Jews and Christians, believe in the testing of Job. The cave is thought to be where Job resided while undergoing his trials. A holy well stands near the cave entrance, and Muslim pilgrims crowd around it, pressing their faces against the metal grate covering the opening. The well is believed to mark the source of water Job opened up after his trials. The Koran says a spring of water rushed forth after he touched his foot to the ground at God’s command. They believe the air around the well can have mysterious healing or other beneficial powers. Like the Abrahamic legend, no one can confirm this, and several other locations including Lebanon and Palestine claim Job as a resident.
Whether or not you believe in these spiritual stories, the age of Sanliurfa and its surrounding villages are undeniable. Just 20 km west of the city lies the oldest temple known to exist anywhere on Earth. The stone formations found at Gobekli Tepe are estimated to have been built around 11,000 B.C.
While passing through what seemed like an endless expanse of rocky desert, we came across all sorts of fragments of past civilizations. Much of what remains of those ancient origins include crumbling caravansarais and churches, city foundations and their underground escape tunnels, and a rocky hill with stone reliefs and cuniform writing.
If you’re looking for where it all started, you can’t miss Turkey’s wild southeast.
(For all of my photos, browse the Sanliurfa and Harran-Kilis photosets the photo gallery.)
NOTE: This article was first published for “Today’s Zaman,” an English daily newspaper in Turkey. View the article as it originally appeared here.
If you were driving by ancient Troy, you would never know it today. Surrounded by hectares of green farms and olive groves, the broken walls of Troy hardly rise above the brush.
Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” immortalize the city as being the scene of one of ancient history’s bloodiest wars. According to Homer’s tale, the Trojan War lasted 10 years and pitted great warriors such as Achilles and Odysseus of Greece and Hector and Paris of Troy against each other. It was allegedly fought over a woman, Helen of Troy, who was smuggled from Greece by Paris. Although there is not much to look at today besides a dozen or so walls and a small theater, the settlement is reportedly over 4,000 years old and represents one of the treasures of Turkey’s grand inheritance.
Over 100 archaeological sites are spread out across Turkey’s rich landscape. Nine of Turkey’s historic places are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Troy is one and is where I met self-proclaimed Trojan and guide Mustafa Aşkın.
“I consider myself a true Trojan,” Aşkın proudly said from his office located alongside his brother’s all-in-one restaurant, hotel and souvenir shop.
Aşkın has been leading groups through Troy since 1978. Aşkın said Troy is his passion. The clutter of books on Troy and archaeology, artists’ renderings of the city and maps in Aşkın’s office are indicative of that. Aşkın grew up in the small village of Hisarlık, where he and his father herded sheep over the same hill that Troy lay buried beneath.
“[My friends and I] used to go through the fields and used to collect some coins, Roman coins,” remembered Aşkın about his first encounter with Troy. “We used to sell them to the tourists, which I feel sorry about now; it’s a shame.”
Aşkın said as a boy, he and his friends knew little about the special nature of the place, although it had attracted many archaeologists and tourists. Aşkın said his father told him that the people came because it was a holy place. They were making a pilgrimage.
“I never understood what was special about that rubble,” said Aşkın.
Today, Aşkın knows more about Troy than most of Turkey’s residents. He initially pursued medicine. However, test scores pushed him into economics in İstanbul and then to London for English training. Costs and a lack of scholarships brought him to his brother Hasan’s small shop next to the ruins of Troy. Aşkın decided to sign up to be a tour guide, and that is where his passion emerged and flourished.
“When I started researching [for my thesis on Troy], I said: ‘Oh my God! This is a vast subject and so interesting.’ I could not stop reading,” Aşkın said excitedly.
Since then, he’s published two guidebooks about Troy and an autobiography. Aşkın hopes that his work will help people understand Troy and respect the site more. He mentioned Turkey’s up and down relationship with its ancient history.
“I’m ashamed to say that in the past, for example, there were some governments, some [people] that simply refused and said the paganism period was not our history. Troy was not our history,” Aşkın said regrettably.
Indeed, the Anatolian plains are littered with ancient Neolithic, Bronze Age, Greco-Roman and Islamic sites, but unfortunately not all have been preserved well. The TAY Project, an independent group of archaeologists and specialists who have monitored Turkey’s settlements since 1993, have filed reports of hundreds of settlements disturbed by treasure hunters and development operations. The protection of a 7,000 year-old settlement in Bardakçıtepe was removed to permit the building of a six-story apartment complex. The world’s oldest known thermal city, Allianoi, near Bergama, is also under immediate threat from the floodwaters of a new dam. Turkey faces the challenge of modernizing while also holding on to priceless historic settlements.
Today, Aşkın hopes that Turkey will take better care of its inherited treasures. He believes that today, there is more protection of sites like Troy. However, a large part of the improvements came from Troy’s chief sponsor, Daimler-Chrysler, which declared bankruptcy last April. Troy also benefits from being a popular tourist destination. Aşkın said he hopes teams will continue to excavate the hill and that Turkey will make sure that the city is protected before and after excavations are made.
Aşkın reminded his audience that Turks are not homogeneous. “When [the Turkic peoples] came from Central Asia, they mixed with these people. Now, to today’s Turkish people, I say: We are Trojans, we are Hittites, we are Greeks, we are Armenians, we are Lydians, Phrygians … we are the descendents of those ancient people.”
Turkey’s monumental inheritance is easily evident in Hisarlık where two of history’s most damaging battles were fought. The Trojan War, which entrenched the Greek Empire, theoretically occurred just off its shores, while only 20 kilometers away across the strait, the Gallipoli campaign occurred where some say the groundwork for the Republic of Turkey began as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk successfully defended the Dardanelles from the invading allied forces.
Residents like Aşkın stand ready to usher guests and Turkish citizens through Turkey’s grand inheritance.
Two weeks ago, I started a trip through Turkey’s green and olive tree laden shores, the Aegean coast. When the New Testament was written and assembled, the land was also known as Asia Minor and a major center for the Roman Empire. With over 300 miles of coast, the region proved to be one of the most fruitful and temperate ares of the known world. Empires have continuously fought over this land up until the day Turkey declared itself independent in 1923. For these reasons, the area also received a special nod in the Bible’s doomsday prophecy:
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand…write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Revelations 1:3,11)
All seven “churches” are located inside modern Turkey. At the time, the word “churches” referred to the community of believers (or non-believers as John was told to warn each city about their unfaithfulness). Today, some of the locations do exhibit fantastic ruins including a church or two. Although unintentional, I’ve had the chance to visit three of the seven settlements, also known as the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse.
The first church I visited is located near the modern city of Denizli, Turkey. I actually visited this site several months ago, and didn’t make the connection until I visited the other two on my last trip. Laodicea was a prosperous Roman city that was known for its black wool. Cicero, the famous orator from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, lived in the city until being put to death by Marc Anthony. The Laodicians were condemned by God because of their indecisiveness on matters of faith. The Bible described them as “neither cold nor hot” (Revelations 3:15).
The first excavation was begun in the 1960s by a Canadian team, but only the nymphaeum, a special Roman fountain, was dug out. Recently however, Turkish businessmen have allied with the city of Denizli (see related article here) to excavate more of the city. Since 2004, the teams have unearthed amazing discoveries including a 10,000 seat stadium, two large theaters, and a statue of Hades, the Greek god of the Underworld. After the end of Rome’s pagan era, a large Christian community combined with a significant Jewish one lived there until the city was destroyed by an earthquake.
I was completely impressed by how intact Laodicea was. The city remained undisturbed for a 1,000 years under Turkey’s rolling hills. Unlike nearby Hierapolis, the streets and remaining structures were built out of a gorgeous white marble. I found interesting remnants of Roman masks and crosses strewn about the excavation site.
The second church I visited is located in one of Turkey’s most visited settlements, Ephesus. Ephesus was well known from St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians in the New Testament. The Ephesus Church was one of the more dominant churches, and remained so until finally degrading during the Ottoman Period (1423-1920 A.D.). In Revelations, the church was praised for it’s strength, but according to God it had strayed from its path.
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelations 2:4-5).
It may have been related to the dispute St. Paul had with Ephesian craftsman who made a lucrative business selling silver idols at the Temple of Artemis nearby (one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World by the way). Today, one gargantuan column remains from the original 127. Just a half mile from the Temple is the site of Ephesus’s “double-church” or Church of the Virgin Mary. The church had the name double church supposedly because one aisle was dedicated to St. John the Apostle and the other to Mary, who both allegedly settled in Ephesus after the crucifixion of Jesus. Visitors, like myself, should not be fooled to think that this Church was part of the reference by the Book of Revelations. The Church itself would not have actually been built until later when Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire. It was the location however where theologians met and declared Mary, “the Mother of God”, at the Council of Ephesus.
A marker remains at the church’s altar and apse where Pope John Paul II visited. An octagonal adult baptismal remains in one of the adjacent chambers of the massive church. I couldn’t help myself but reenact the watery ritual!
Ephesus remains one of the most complete ancient settlements in the world, and there’s plenty more to discuss and share (at a later point). The city was prosperous because it used to be connected to an ancient harbor that silted up by 700 A.D. The city also suffered an earthquake during the 5th century and several raids from Arab tribes. Eventually, even the Ottomans left the ancient city to form a new village nearby now known as Selcuk.
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write…I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” (Revelations 2:13-15).
Pergamon, like Ephesus, was both commended for it’s faithfulness during uncertain times, but also chided for paganism. Unlike the other cities, John’s Revelations does call out a specific church referred as the “seat of the devil.” However, it likely wasn’t this one as churches would not have been established until much later. Some archeologists, including a friend of mine whose blogged can be found here, points out that it was more likely that revelations refers to the grand altar of Zeus located in Pergamon’s upper city.
Even if not the “throne of Satan”, the Red Basilica still stands as an impressive building, albeit without a roof and marble floors that have been partially destroyed. The church, known as the Red Basilica, was apparently so big that when the Eastern Orthodox Byzantines controlled the region they actually built a second church inside it. The Red Basilica was made out of a deep red brick in contrast to the white marble that makes up the city center at the top of a nearby 1,000 foot hill. The structure was believed to originally serve as a temple for Serapis, the Egyptian god of the Underworld. Tunnels and sub structures are found underneath the basilica, and I was able to crawl into the hole where pagan priests would hide. Above them would be a statue of a god, and the priests would act as if the god were speaking to the congregation.
Pergamon, now Bergama, also served as a major center for medical research and treatment during the Greek Empire. The cult of Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing, practiced their experiments in Pergamon at its “Asclepion.” Physical and psychological techniques were developed at the Asclepion to treat patients. Asclepius still lives on in today’s medicine. He is mentioned in the Hippocratic Oath, and his rod, a snake wrapped around a walking stick, is sometimes used by medical practitioners. However, some hospitals use the rod wrapped by two snakes which is not the Rod of Asclepius, but the Cauduceus Rod. (See the differences between the rods here)
At its height, Pergamon was one of the richest kingdoms in Asia Minor. A resident could look out from the top of the Pergamon’s city and can look as far as the Aegean sea on one side, and for miles into Anatolia on the other side. The houses surrounding it’s Acropolis and temples also sport some very fine mosaics. Today, the flood waters of new dam projects can be seen surrounding some parts of the ancient province, burying priceless treasures deep under water.
I’ve yet to visit the other four churches: Sardis, Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city), Thyatira, or Philadelphia (no, not in Pennsylvania). All four are in Turkey. As mentioned, the churches were not actual buildings, but the references to the communities therein. Whether or not you believe Revelations’s doomsday predictions, it’s interesting to see the places that would have been the equivalent of today’s New York City, London, Tokyo, and Istanbul. For a long time, Turkey was the center of the world, and the most prized commodity for emperors and kings alike.
Still, nothing last for ever. Each of these cities except for one were completely wiped out over the course of a 1,000 years. Today, the marble pillars and cracked altars humbly remind us of that fact. While walking through Turkey’s ruins, I think to myself, where will Boston be in 1,000 years? Where will the United States be? Where will humanity be? What will people write about us? Rome fell because it couldn’t sustain itself, as did Byzantium, and the Ottomans. Is our demise inevitable?
Does our globalized world share the same apocalyptic future as the Seven Churches of Asia?
Edits made to this post on February 19, 2010:
1. The Double Church or “Church of the Virgin Mary” did not exist at the time of the writing of Revelations. A pagan museum or gymnasium may have existed in the same location prior, but it’s foundation was completely changed.
2. The Red Basilica served as a temple under the Roman Emperor Hadrian during first century period associated with the writing of the Book of Revelations. Scholars attribute the Seat of Satan to actually be Pergamon’s Altar of Zeus that overlooked the basilica from a nearby hill. The altar now resides in in Berlin.
3. The blog cited Pergamon as the second largest city in Rome for a period of time. This information has proven inaccurate and was removed. Pergamon was one of the richer cities in Asia Minor, however.
4. The blog mentioned that Izmir contained a church from the time period. It is unknown about structures in Izmir because its historically dense population has made it difficult for any excavations to begin.
Picture a small village in middle of nowhere. When you look around, you see nothing but a few small flats and buildings that make up the “town square.” Alongside the narrow road serving as “main street”, farmers stand next to their overloaded tables bulging with fresh tomatoes, melons, and other fresh fruit. As you look away from the town, you see nothing but endless fields of wheat and rolling mountains sitting on the horizon. This is the small township of Polatli, Turkey. 72 km (43 miles) west of Ankara, the town is not far from the city of 4 million. However, Turkey is a country made up of large urban centers surrounded by much smaller townships and even smaller villages. For example, Turkey’s 2007 census reports that about 12.5 million people live in Istanbul alone while about 20.8 million people live in all of Turkey’s non-urban areas combined.
Polatli was not our destination, however, but the last checkpoint with civilization before setting out in search of the 3000 year-old capital of Phrygia, Gordion. Located in the incredibly small Turkish village of Yassihüyük (Yas-see-hew-yewk), Gordion was an incredibly important and strategic city for two empires: the Assyrians (Phyrigians) and the Greeks.
During the Phyrigian period, Gordion lied right at the river crossing for the road connecting Lydia and Babylonia. At the time, these cities were equivalent to today’s New York and London. They were huge city centers where much of the world’s power was concentrated.
For the Greeks, the city is the subject of one of its most famous myths: King Alexander and the Gordian Knot. According to the myth, Gordion had no established leader during its formation. Instead, an oracle predicted that the next person to enter the city driving an ox cart would become King. A poor peasant named Gordias entered carrying his ox cart with his son, Midas. Gordias was quickly declared the new leader. Midas, in honor of his father’s succession, dedicated the cart to the gods and tied it to a post with a very intricate knot.
The Gordian Knot, as it became known, would remain tied until 333 BC when Alexander the Great would
attempt to untie the knot. Previously, the oracles had said whoever could untangle the knot would rise to power as the next King of Asia. The impatient 23 year-old would ultimately cut the knot with his sword in a fit of rage. After his “success” at Gordion, Alexander would go on to conquer the rest of the known Asian continent, but his kingdom would be very short lived. Ten years later, King Alexander would die of a severe fever in Babylon. Some say Alexander was cursed by the gods for taking the easy way out with the Gordion knot.
In Turkey, I am surprised almost on a daily basis of how much history I can find around me. As two of my classmates and I drove through seemingly endless fields of wheat, I asked myself, “How did anyone find anything out here?” But there they were, hidden among the hills and rocks of Turkey lay the ruins of Gordion’s inner city.
My traveling companions included Nye, a retired British civil engineer who has lived in Turkey for many years, and Ivory, a student from Hong Kong visiting Turkey for the next two months as a part of her university program. Both of them are in my Turkish class, which I will talk about later in the blog. Feeling a bit like Indiana Jones, we walked along a small path circling the remnants of the ancient citadel. We had almost walked into the archeological site when the Turkish man in charge of watching over it warned us off. As a Boston resident where the oldest surviving structure is, at best, 500-600 years old, this was an experience. Standing on a cliff overlooking what was once an ancient citadel housing a powerful King, all his amenities, and the ancient elite, I couldn’t help but feel more connected with the ancient world I had spent years in my history and Latin classes reading about.
Just beyond the ruined citadel, you can see many small mounds in the distance. These mounds are not ordinary hills, but the burial mounds of Phrygia’s kings. The tallest and only excavated mound is the tomb of “King Midas” (the Midas Tumulus). Yes, this is thought to be the King Midas who was granted the golden touch. However, upon entering the tomb, visitors find out that the Midas portion may be exaggerated. In all the books that speak about Gordion, one is led to believe you will see the tomb of King Midas. Upon arrival however, the visitor is told at the entrance to the tomb that although the mound certainly contained one of Phrygia’s greatest kings, it seemed to have been built too early for Midas. Instead, archeologists believe the tomb probably belonged to Gordias, the father of King Midas. Alas, it appears that the site was nothing but fools gold!
Nonetheless, the site was incredibly interesting and the chance to step so far into a 3000 year-old tomb was invigorating. Walking just ten feet into the tomb, we noticed the temperature drop at least 30 degrees. We walked about 200 feet down a narrow tunnel built by archeologists in the 1950s when they discovered the tomb. All of the valuables and bodies were removed and given to either the Gordion Museum across the street or to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. All that remained in the tomb itself was the wooden frame built by immense logs. The frame resembled a log cabin. As tradition dictated, the Phyrigians buried and sealed the tomb with earth and rock.
After our six hour adventure in Gordion, we rested at a small outpost behind the Midas tomb. The single story ranch was built out of the red rock found everywhere in Turkey. Sipping on Schweppes bitter lemon, we all agreed the adventure was much more surprising and interesting than expected.
Earlier, I mentioned my trip to Gordion to Mehmet, my Turkish host. He looked at me with shock and said, “Matt, why are you going out there? Nothing but rocks and dead plants. Not very interesting.” Mehmet was right that there were plenty of both rocks and dead plants in Gordion, but there was also so much more. With so much of Turkey’s main attractions crawling with tourists, one can get lost in the hustle. Getting away and visiting a much less traveled site provided us with a chance to really take the time and soak in what we were seeing.
That day in Gordion, I learned Turkey’s treasures are not just in Sultanahmet or along the Aegean Coast. Some of Turkey’s most breathtaking sites lay off the beaten path, away from the carpet dealers and tourist traps of the cities, and all you need is the motivation and the right companions to travel through the intimidating Turkish landscape and discover the treasures scattered across the country.